Preston North End’s youngsters were beaten 2-1 in their opening day fixture against Oldham Athletic.
North End made the Latics’ work for their win after captain Josh Brownhill gave his team the perfect start to the game with an early goal.
But Oldham produced an admirable turn around, with both their first half goals the result of intelligent set piece deliveries.
Both teams were unable to settle in the opening stages of the game. North End’s energy without the ball was matched by their opponents throughout, resulting in a scrappy affair, with each side being hustled out of possession regularly.
Neither side seemed comfortable with the fierce tempo that prevailed from the first kick to the last. But it was Oldham who produced the first effort on goal.
Midfielder Jordan Scott gave away a free kick on the right touchline, and the subsequent delivery from the set piece produced an excellent acrobatic save from Steven James in the Preston goal.
Oldham midfielder John Pritchard’s unintentional effort on goal swirled over everyone, forcing James to tip over his crossbar.
Preston continued to try and play short, intelligent football. Midfielders Jordan Scott and Shaun Holmes were central to those efforts but Oldham’s packed midfield often thwarted such attempts.
Their perseverance was rewarded however in the 15th minute.
Tyler Forbes did brilliantly as he rode two challenges before bursting into the box. He drove past an opposition defender before sending a powerful low drive across Oldham’s six yard box. Joel Coleman, in the Oldham goal, could only parry into the path of Brownhill, who kept his cool and gratefully applied the finish beyond several sprawling Oldham bodies.
The goal saw Preston begin to enjoy the better of proceedings. Lovely build up down the right hand side saw James Quigley exchange passes with Joe Whittington before curling an out swinging ball to the back post which found Forbes, who could only deflect his effort wide of the post.
Not long after it was Forbes again causing trouble for the Oldham backline. He produced an exquisite touch and turn on the edge of the area but his shot flew harmlessly over Coleman’s bar.
Preston, after spending a concerted amount of time in the Oldham half, came under pressure themselves as the Latics’ fought their way back into the contest.
Oldham’s threat from set pieces soon became apparent after Harry Hagon denied Oldham an equaliser, scooping a free header away from danger.
Another free kick was conceded not long after, and the resulting delivery gave Oldham parity. Dead ball executer John Pritchard sent a low curling effort through a host of bodies and somehow, via a deflection, squirmed under James to bring the scores level.
North End responded well however, as centre half Josh Sampson met a Brownhill corner, only to see his powerful header denied by a statuary Oldham defender on the back post.
On the stroke of half-time, Oldham completed the turn around. A long, direct free kick from just inside Preston’s half found unmarked Latics’ skipper Tom Clarke at the back post.
His header back across goal was diverted well by shot stopper James, but he was powerless to stop the second effort that came his way. A neat pull back found winger Ben Grant who slid the ball under the keeper to send Oldham into the interval ahead.
The second half produced few chances, much to the annoyance of North End’s youngsters. But it was Forbes again who proved to be Preston’s best chance of drawing level.
The winger collected the ball on the left before cutting in and hitting the ball low, forcing Coleman into a smart save.
The team’s usually potent attacking trio of Brownhill, Forbes and Whittington were often crowded out by a well organised, hardworking Oldham side, who went close to getting a third late on. An over hit cross from the left, looped over James’ head, glancing his left hand post.
But the best chance of the second half fell to substitute Lyle Maglois, whose turn and instinctive shot flew high and wide of the Oldham goal. The introduction of substitutes Magolis, Bradley Wicks and Nick Anderton were unable to inspire a second North End goal and the game petered out, disappointingly, without any real chances on goal.